Every Single Article Written by Russell - All 140
Over the past thirteen years, the American political stage has been so completely fucked up that I’m not sure if what I’ve witnessed is real life or the horrible manifestation of one of the late Bill Hicks’ fever dreams. Anyone attempting to craft a clever comedy lampooning our electoral process should find a wealth of material to draw upon, and this political cycle is particularly ripe for a film containing some biting satire. The Campaign, a lazy, witless movie from the director of Meet the Fockers, is not that movie.
The second adaptation of Philip K. Dick’s We Can Remember It for You Wholesale hit theaters this weekend sporting a larger production budget, boatloads of CGI, and a family friendly PG-13 rating. Len Wiseman’s Total Recall is a better looking, better acted version of Paul Verhoeven’s original Arnold Schwarzenegger vehicle, but, in the end, it is soulless and unmemorable.
With Moonrise Kingdom we get to see Wes Anderson at his Wes-Anderson-iest (I’m sticking with that horribly unimaginative adjective until someone shows me a better way to describe his work), which is to say, this film is a lot like the rest of his films. That means Moonrise Kingdom is chock full of gorgeous cinematography, obscure ‘60s music, deadpan performances, dry comedy, and Bill Murray. Wes Anderson fans will praise it; Wes Anderson haters will despise it. Regardless, this movie contained everything I’ve come to expect from the auteur.
As I walked out of a showing of The Watch, I found myself wondering how a movie showcasing so much talent could be so aggressively mediocre and unfunny. Akiva Shaffer, one-third of the fantastic The Lonely Island and director of the criminally underrated Hot Rod, takes on directing duties; the screenplay comes from Seth Rogen and Evan Golberg; and the film stars Vince Vaughn, Ben Stiller, Jonah Hill, and Richard Ayoade – all actors who have proven themselves capable of being hilarious in at least one or two roles in their careers. This again begs the question: How the hell is The Watch not the funniest movie of the past five years, and furthermore, why is it so goddamn boring?
I think director Masaki Kobayashi’s Harakiri (1962) is the finest Samurai film ever made. Even better than the Lone Wolf and Cub films or Akira Kurosawa’s work in the genre. I’m sure any real film critics out there who may have accidentally stumbled upon this corner of the internet will be screaming for my head at this point, but I could care less. Harakiri (1962) comes as close as any movie can possibly get to being flawless, and I recommend it to anyone—even people who don’t care about Samurai flicks. So it almost goes without saying that maverick director Takashi Miike was left with some gigantic shoes to fill when he took it upon himself to direct the remake. Miike doesn’t improve on the original film, but to his credit, he doesn’t do the material an injustice either.
Get the Gringo, written by and starring Mel Gibson, is perhaps the best movie ever made to miss a real theatrical release. I know that sounds like damning the movie with faint praise, but Get the Gringo is a surprisingly professional, polished movie. The catch, however, is that each person’s ability to sit through it will depend on his or her ability to stomach watching Mel Gibson on film. In fact, I suspect the only reason Get the Gringo was dumped off without a theatrical release is because of the star. I grew up watching (and loving the hell out of) Lethal Weapon, Braveheart, and The Road Warrior, though, so the man can do nothing in his personal life to make me just skip out on one of his action movies. I may not like Gibson as a man, but he knows how to make a decent movie. Get the Gringo is a grim, bloody, taut little film, reminiscent of Gibson’s work in the ‘80s, before he briefly attempted to go all family-friendly on us. Read the rest of this article…
In Being Flynn, Robert De Niro takes a break from a decade of giving bland performances in shitty movies (Stardust excepted) to give a great performance in an above average movie. One could argue that the rather simple story of damaged young man reuniting with his delusional, near-sociopathic father shouldn’t merit resurfacing of De Niro’s dormant talent, but I don’t care. As a longtime fan of De Niro, particularly the work he did from 1973-1997, I’m just happy to see him actually acting again instead of collecting massive paychecks in exchange for sleepwalking through bad movies.
I’ve never been to the San Diego Comic-Con, but I’ve wanted to go ever since I was kid, reading blurbs about the convention in the pages of Batman, The Amazing Spider-Man, The Uncanny X-Men, and any other comic book title I could place my grubby little hands on. So it goes without saying that Morgan Spurlock’s Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fan’s Hope piqued my interest. I enjoyed this movie, but I’ll add the caveat that it will probably appeal exclusively to comic nerds and pop culture junkies. To everyone else Comic-Con Episode IV is just going to come off as pornography for geeks, which it probably is in all fairness.
Poor Taylor Kitsch. Oliver Stone’s Savages is the third crappy movie he’s headlined in the past four months. In concept, this movie should have been fantastic. Savages has Oliver Stone finally returning to the crime genre after a long break from making films like Scarface and Natural Born Killers. The story at least appears to tackle the prescient matter of Mexican drug cartels, and the cast includes some damn good actors including Benico Del Toro, Salma Hayek, Aaron Johnson, and Demian Bichir. And yet, a few colossal missteps from the screenwriters sabotage the entire production.
The Amazing Spider-Man, Marc Webb’s slightly updated take on the origin of our favorite web-slinging superhero, hits theaters this week and it’s about as good as a complete retread of a ten year old movie can possibly be. The movie sports a darker color palette, improved CGI, bloodier action sequences, and a cast that is generally superior to Raimi’s crew (though no one in this movie rivals Willem Dafoe’s scenery chewing performance as the Green Goblin). And yet, as I watched The Amazing Spider-Man, I couldn’t shake the feeling that the story was completely obligatory and listless. It’s like everyone involved was really excited about the idea of a sequel—about eventually doing for Spider-Man what Christopher Nolan did for Batman with The Dark Knight—but they were all told to trudge through a perfunctory reboot before they could have any fun.